UN agency for Palestinians seeks funds after US cuts

Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, Pierre Krahenbuhl, waves to refugee school girls on his arrival for a press conference to launch the global campaign to support UNRWA, at the UNRWA Rimal Girls Preparatory School in Gaza City, Monday, Jan. 22, 2018. The main UN agency for Palestinian refugees launched an “unprecedented” appeal seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in response to funding cuts by the Trump administration. (AP)
Updated 22 January 2018
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UN agency for Palestinians seeks funds after US cuts

GAZA CITY: The UN agency for Palestinian refugees on Monday launched an “unprecedented” appeal seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in response to funding cuts by the Trump administration.
Last week the State Department notified the UN Relief and Works Agency that the US is withholding $65 million of a planned $125 million funding installment. It also made clear that additional US donations will be contingent on major changes by UNRWA, which has been heavily criticized by Israel.
Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians either fled or were forced from their homes during the war that led to Israel’s establishment in 1948. Today, there are an estimated 5 million refugees and their descendants, mostly scattered across the region. UNWRA provides them with education, health and welfare services.
UNRWA’s commissioner-general, Pierre Krahenbuhl, on Monday called the decision “abrupt and harmful.”
He said the agency will create new funding alliances and get the UN secretary-general involved in high-level ministerial meetings to generate donations from countries.
The “Dignity is Priceless” campaign aims to raise $500 million to ensure that the agency’s core services are unaffected.
“We cannot accept that this investment in education, in health care, and in dignity and respect would be interrupted in any way. It’s much too risky for the entire Middle East,” Krahenbuhl warned.
The US is UNWRA’s largest donor, supplying nearly 30 percent of its budget. The agency focuses on providing health care, education and social services to Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.
In Gaza, more than 1.3 million residents — half the population — rely on food and other services provided by the agency. On Monday, Gaza businesses went on a partial strike to protest the economic situation.
Notices on the shuttered doors read “we want to live” and “enough of siege,” referring to the blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt after Hamas took over the territory in 2007.


Turkey to expand cross-border military operations

Updated 4 min 32 sec ago
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Turkey to expand cross-border military operations

SHANGHAI: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has told his ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) congress that Turkey would press on with and expand its cross-border military operations.
Turkey sent troops into northern Syria two years ago to fight against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).
The YPG forms the backbone of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the Kurdish-Arab alliance that has received extensive backing from the US-led coalition in the battle against Daesh.
But Turkey accuses the YPG of being the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a group blacklisted by Ankara and its Western allies.
The Turkish army has also increased its strikes against PKK rear bases in the north of Iraq in the past few months.
Erdogan also declared on Saturday that his country would not be cowed by the US.
The two countries are at odds over Turkey’s detention of an American pastor, which has triggered a trade row and sent the local currency the lira into a tailspin.

Strategic target
“We will not surrender to those who present themselves as a strategic partner while at the same time trying to make us a strategic target,” Erdogan said at the congress.
“Some people threaten us with economy, sanctions, foreign currency exchange rates, interest rates and inflation. We know your shenanigans and we will defy you.”
Last week, US President Donald Trump said he had doubled the tariffs on aluminum and steel tariffs from Turkey, prompting Ankara to sharply hike tariffs on several US products.
And Turkey on Friday threatened to respond in kind if Washington imposed further sanctions, while a court rejected another appeal to free pastor Andrew Brunson, who has been held for almost two years on terror charges.
The lira has nosedived against the dollar, dropping as much as 20 percent on one day last week. It sunk to a low of well over seven to the dollar earlier this week but was trading at just over six to the dollar on Friday — a loss of 40 percent since the start of the year.
The collapse of the currency has been blamed both on the tensions with the US and Erdogan’s increasing hold on Turkey’s economy and his refusal to allow the central bank to raise interest rates.
On Saturday, China’s top diplomat, State Councillor Wang Yi, told Turkey’s foreign minister that Beijing supports the Turkish government’s efforts to safeguard security and economic stability and believes that it will overcome its “temporary difficulties.”
China’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Wang had made the comments in a phone call with the Turkish Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu.
The Turkish lira has lost a third of its value against the dollar this year as worsening relations between Turkey and the US added to losses driven by concerns over President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s influence on monetary policy.
Cavusoglu spoke about the current situation in Turkey during the phone call and said his government was willing to strengthen strategic communication with China, the statement said.
Beijing first commented on the issue on Friday in a Foreign Ministry statement in which it offered moral support to Turkey.